When choosing which type of sunscreen to apply, there are two routes to go: Chemical or mineral-based (in some cases, both are combined into one formula). Mineral sunscreens work as a shield, blocking the sun’s rays from penetrating the skin, thanks to ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, protect the skin against UV rays by absorbing them, relying on ingredients such as octocrylene or avobenzone.
Add in extra steps as needed (or wanted)
Once you have a basic routine down, you can begin to add in extra steps here and there, as needed. A good place to start is with exfoliation, adding it in as an additional step once or twice per week using alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which work in different ways to slough off excess buildup on the skin’s surface.
As with types of sunscreen, there are also two different methods of exfoliation you can choose between: Physical and chemical. The aforementioned AHAs and BHAs are chemical exfoliants, and they’re excellent for inducing cell turnover, increasing collagen formation, and improving dullness, Shokeen says. Physical exfoliation, on the other hand, is just what it sounds like — manually sloughing away dead skin cells, excess oil, and buildup via a face scrub. Sensitive skin types may want to steer clear of physical exfoliants, Shokeen says, as they can irritate the skin and can induce broken blood vessels.
Additional add-on steps you can rotate in and out of your routine as needed include serums and masks. Facial serums are high-potency, lightweight topicals that are formulated with a higher concentration of active ingredients — such as vitamin C and hyaluronic acid — to target more specific skin concerns. They should be layered underneath your moisturizer — a general rule of thumb is to apply products with a thinner consistency underneath thicker ones, such as moisturizers and oil.
You can also add in a face mask here and there — though Shokeen recommends doing so no more than once or twice per week. “Face masks should be used periodically,” she explains, and applied onto clean, dry skin. Seek out a face mask that’s formulated to target whatever specific skin concerns you’re facing that day; common examples include hydrating, clarifying, calming, and brightening masks.
Remember these important tips
Less is more
As your skin-care routine continues to develop and evolve, perhaps the most important piece of information to remember as you’re slathering on products is this: Less is often more. “Paring down your regimen and sticking to key, important active ingredients will serve you much better than doing too much,” Farber advises. “Stick to products that do not have too many ingredients and are fragrance-free, and try new products one by one so you can see how your skin reacts.”
If a new skin-care routine doesn’t seem like it’s “working” right away, know that when it comes to skin care, patience is a must (and if any product promises immediate results, be weary). “Don’t experiment too much,” Shokeen says. “Give your skin a chance to get used to a product or active agent for at least two to three months before switching.” The exception here, of course, would be if a skin-care product provokes any sort of irritation or allergic reaction — in which case, discontinue use right away.
Consistency is key
“Stay consistent,” Shah says, which ties back to the having-patience part. As with many things in life, consistency — going through the same skin-care routine steps every day, morning and night — is key to producing and maintaining real results. Bottom line: Trust in the process (and your own skin), and follow through with whatever plan you set out for yourself.
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Done reading? Now, watch and learn about the history of face masks: